Workers loading a truck at the Appalachian Harvest Duffield Facility. AP Photo/Wade Payne
Appalachian Harvest is a wholesale distributor run by the non-profit Appalachian Sustainable Development in Abingdon, Va. Since 2000, Appalachian Harvest has helped local farms earn over $10 million through the aggregation and distribution of produce to markets from Maryland to Georgia.
In an effort to help farms capture a higher price point for their produce, AH is offering an Organic Growers Group to help offset the costs of becoming certified organic. Average market prices on crops like bell peppers, zucchini and winter squash are often double for organic versus conventional. AH needs more growers to join the Organic Growers Group as there is far more demand for organic produce than they currently have suppliers for!
Currently, the closest organic certifying agency is Quality Certification Services out of Gainesville, FL. Farmers looking to be certified must bear the costs of paying for the travel and time of a certifier to inspect their farm. However, by joining the Organic Growers Group, farmers can share the cost of inspection. Individually, Organic certification can cost more than $1200, but with the OGG, it usually runs less than $500 per farm.
Farms that are certified organic can sell hard winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc) and cabbage through Appalachian Harvest. AH also offers 5-6 GAP Certification trainings per year across Southwest VA. Farmers that are GAP certified can also sell cucumbers, summer squash, bell peppers, eggplant, beans and beets through AH.
Beyond the group cost savings, Appalachian Harvest offers plenty of technical assistance to farmers to make the transition to organic and to fill out their application correctly. For a field to be certified organic, it must not have had any conventional inputs used on it for three years. This does not mean that a field must be left fallow or unprotected from pest and disease pressures. AH offers assistance on the use of organic sprays, fertilizers and other inputs as well as how to use crop rotation, plastic mulch, mowing, tilling, livestock grazing, beneficial insects, buffer zones, traps and repellents to keep crops and livestock healthy and productive.
Typically, Appalachian Harvest offers classes and workshops on organic certification in the fall and assists farmers on their applications during November and December.
If you are interested in selling through Appalachian Harvest and becoming a member of the Organic Growers Group, please contact Adam Pendleton, Appalachian Harvest Grower Manager, at (276) 708-8438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.